In 2018, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said sports betting was inevitable for the Buckeye State. Fast forward to early 2021, and again he’s saying it’s inevitable.
DeWine said in a Monday press conference that it’s just a matter of time. “Sports gaming’s already in Ohio. Ohio’s just not regulating it,” DeWine said, referring to offshore online sportsbooks. “This is something that I think is inevitable. It’s coming to Ohio.”
In the fall of 2018, DeWine told News Channel 5 Cleveland: “It’s coming to Ohio whether people want it or not. We need to be there to do it right, the right way.”
Not much has changed from 2018 to 2021 if you simply look at DeWine’s comments. The legislature is still working on it, with a bill clearing the House last year only for a similar but different proposal for sports betting dying in the Senate. COVID-19, the discrepancies between the two proposals, and a shocking corruption scandal in the House unrelated to gaming are likely to blame.
While DeWine is basically unchanged on his desire for sports betting regulation in Ohio, the legislature has definitely moved the ball down the field in terms of the concept, even though it hasn’t delivered results. Lawmakers are currently holding weekly meetings on expanding gambling.
Why is it inevitable?
Nothing is guaranteed. The world could end and Ohio wouldn’t have sports betting. Barring unforeseen catastrophe, there’s virtually no chance the state doesn’t have some form of wagering in the coming years. It simply won’t be attractive to Ohio policymakers to see their state serve as a giant long-term feeder market for the likes of Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Kentucky to the south doesn’t currently have sports betting, but the Bluegrass State has its own unique hurdles for legalization.
The gaming industry is clamoring for Ohio to legalize it, but in the meantime many of the same firms that would launch apps in Ohio are seeing booming businesses within the borders of Ohio’s neighbors. They are going to make money from many Ohioans either way.
Still, if you live in, let’s say, Columbus, you would have a substantial drive to a neighboring state to wager, so obviously gaming stakeholders want to offer the product within the confines of the Buckeye State. Policymakers in Ohio, generally friendly to the commercial casino industry, will eventually allow it.
Ohio is not a California, Florida, or Texas when it comes to gambling expansion.
DeWine knows that the mid-2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed states to legalize sports betting made it so Ohio would have to eventually regulate. Regulation involves shoring up the integrity of sports in the new world of wagering, so Ohio can’t sit on the sidelines indefinitely.
Legislation could cross the finish line in 2021, but if not this year, 2022 would be a good bet.